Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 445–458 | Cite as

Food stocks and grain reserves: evaluating whether storing food creates resilient food systems

  • Evan D. G. FraserEmail author
  • Alexander Legwegoh
  • Krishna KC


Many are worried that the global food system is entering a period of intense volatility driven by a combination of climate change and population growth. One way to address this problem is for governments and the international community to store more food as a buffer against crisis. The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of food storage as a component of a robust food security strategy in the twenty-first century. We do this by first drawing on historical examples from ancient Rome and China, where preindustrial government designed extensive systems that ensured adequate food storage to keep food systems stable. Next, we review the links between food storage and price volatility in the last 20 years and demonstrate that the size of food stores (and in particular grain reserves) directly relates to price volatility. Third, we explore three different types of policies designed to promote grain reserves, the US’s “ever-normal granary” policy, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, and the Strategic Grain Reserve in Africa. In this third section, we show how there has been a decline from state-owned strategic grain reserves in favor of a more market-oriented approach that is dominated by a handful of powerful corporations who maintain sophisticated supply chains. Because data on the amount of food supply these corporations hold in storage are proprietary secrets, it is impossible to assess how resilient or vulnerable this makes our food system. Finally, we conclude that over time, food storage has fallen in and out of favor, criticized for being expensive yet often shown to play an important role in protecting poor consumers in times of food crisis. Given the lack of data on current levels of supply chain and household storage, more research is needed to evaluate the scale at which food storage systems should be implemented to ensure food system resilience as well as the most effective mechanisms to govern and manage them.


Food security Food reserves Strategic grain reserves Food price volatility Economic shocks Food storage 


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Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Evan D. G. Fraser
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexander Legwegoh
    • 1
  • Krishna KC
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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